Hello people, how are you? I'm typing one handed today, having cut myself attempting to chop an onion and bleeding all over my kitchen. We've had a lovely week, the garden's coming together, the sun is out and all's well with the world. Unfortunately, the bird and rodent population around our house aren't having a great time of it - the warmth of the temperatures outside has drawn Wilfred outside the house and he is going through them like a dose of salts. I'm almost afraid to walk around the house in bare feet as there's always a high risk of stepping on a barely cooled furry/feathery body - no walking around with my head in the clouds, then! The other people who've been adversely affected by the warm weather are my poor neighbours.
Mike has his electric keyboard set up in the conservatory and when it is mild, he goes there and bangs out the few tunes he knows (one of them is 'White Christmas'), and what's worse, attempts to accompany himself in full throat. He has a reasonable voice, but eventually it sounds like Ozzy Ozbourne singing Bark at the Moon backwards with a half chewed bat in his mouth. That puts paid to any ideas they have of mowing the lawn or having a little al fresco picnic outdoors, they scuttle back to the house shrieking, with their hands over their ears. I'm not stupid, I've invested in a good pair of earplugs and am considering gifting the neighbours a few pairs as a gesture of goodwill.
WIth all the flowers coming out in the garden and the butterflies and bees flitting around, I was inspired to make a butterfly using a couple of hand carved pink quartz cabochons. I felt that the pale pink of the quartz needed zhooshing up with a bit of extra colour and have decided that the necklace will be in spring/summer shades of pink and a bright leaf green.
I've owned a string of tiny 1mm silver beads for the longest time, and I had no idea what I could do with them. A few weeks ago, I was idly looking at a brochure from one of my suppliers and I found strings of tiny 2mm haematite beads. The beads are electroplated with titanium in an electric blue and I bought four strings and added the tiny silver beads to them, along with a few round beads sprinkled through the necklace, to allow the beads to move on the stringing wire. The tiny silver beads are called Silver Silk and the necklace was hell to string because of the size of the beads, but I persevered as I could see that it was going to look pretty when finished, and so it does!
I left the strands short at 18" so that they frame the face.
So, here are a few pictures of the butterfly I've been working on - WIP pictures, taken at the end of each night, as I go along. For the first time I actually put a sketch down on a piece of kitchen roll, I usually start with a cabochon and design the piece as I go along. With this pendant, I'm using two cabochons and want two wings and a tip of a third to be visible, so I felt it made sense to have a vague idea of what I wanted to do rather than muddling through as is my wont, normally.
I hope it's looking vaguely butterflyish now - if it isn't, you could
This is all I had time for this week. Have a fabulous week, and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hey folks, how are you? Thanks for joining me today. This week I received an email notification that I was on the London Jewellery Schools blog as Student of the month for June!
Well, I've never been proclaimed student of any month, at any time in my life; so I was pretty pleased to receive this accolade. In India where I grew up, my report cards always read 'Could do Better' - it was almost as if any risk of praise falling from the lips of the nuns who were responsible for schooling me was regarded by them as worse than casting pearls before swine, so they never handed any out. Fortunately for me, I thought that 'could do better' was a kind of perverse compliment ( I'm a cup half full type of a girl) and that they were really saying to me that I wasn't a total duffer. I spent my childhood content with that. The London Jewellery School even sent me a certificate, how fabulous is that?
There is a school of thought that truly believes that reinforcing good behavior while discouraging disobedience and anti-social behavior, generally produces positive results in children. Positive reinforcement helps children feel good about their choices, which motivates them to increase the behaviors that bring rewards. Either the people at my school didn't know this theory or, to be fair to them, perhaps I exhibited no such positive characteristics, who knows?
So, now that I'm 'Student of the Month' I decided I'd better make a piece of statement jewellery to be worthy of that title! I picked out a bunch of abalone teardrops and put them together in a multi strand necklace. When I'd put the necklace together, I wasn't satisfied with the heft of the piece, so I added strands of iridescent blue glass beads to the mix so that they shine gently behind the abalone without necessarily being seen as one of the main entities, and then an added pop of colour with a few fronds of bamboo coral in a bright red that will sit on top of the other strands. The whole piece sits close to the neck like a choker and most definitely makes a statement. My first thought was that it looked like molten lava running down the side of a volcano, but my husband named it Martinique, so that's what I called it.
I told you last week about the pearl lariat necklace I made for Lisa, and that she wasn't too happy with the hooks on the earrings as she prefers studs. I sent off for some studs and when they arrived, I made this pair up for her. I hope she likes them - I can, of course remake them with just the pearls as dangles if she wishes.
The studs are pretty and set with a single CZ and the earrings are light, so every box is ticked, or so it would seem!
I also made up her strand of corals - she wanted a simple choker necklace, but I couldn't resist adding a beautiful, oversized lobster clasp - what's the point of going to a jewellery designer to have a necklace made up if there isn't a designer touch added to it? Anyone can string beads, but the addition of a beautiful clasp really brings a necklace to life - what do you think??
The weather has played ball all week, and I've spent a lot of time outdoors, replanting the pots and filling in bare areas that have appeared here and there in my borders.
This has meant less time to play with beads and baubles and clay, but who cares?? I'm having too much fun.
That's it for this week folks, have a lovely week, and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello folks, it's nice to be back in touch with you today. It has been a very busy week at work and I've managed to cram in a bit of jewellery making in between the rigours of the day job. The weather hasn't played ball and we're back to a questionable British summer after two weeks of glorious brightness - perhaps that's the end of our summer!
Not that I would have had any time to enjoy the sunshine, had there been any, I've been stuck indoors for most of the week.
I had a couple of orders for jewellery that have been on my books for a long time, and I've been catching up with them, getting them ready for delivery.
The first one was a necklace requested by a lady up in Scotland - for some reason Caprilicious has a lot of customers from Scotland. I wonder why that is?? This lady saw a necklace I made earlier and requested one just like it, in time for payday this month - and as the end of the month was fast approaching, I jumped to it.
I collected a packet of beads when I was in India to be made up for a lady who lives in Dubai. Lisa left them in India with a mutual friend two years ago, and I only got them during this visit to Bangalore. She is Italian, and a very beautiful jet setting socialite, who requested a couple of sophisticated necklaces made for her to suit her lifestyle. She wanted one of them to be a choker and the second, a lariat.
Lisa is on Instagram as love.like.lisa and describes herself as '.. a cosmocrat cresting the wave of vitality and wellness with oodles of curiosity and oceans of gratitude'. She was the editor-in-chief of NewYou, a premier monthly publication dedicated to Integrative Health, Medical Aesthetics, Holistic Healing and optimal longevity and is now heading The wellnessworld.blog, a portal dedicated to similar topics. She also runs fabulous holistic retreats in Greece among other places, and I hope to join her at one of them some day. She will be in the UK on a visit next month and I need to have her pieces done and dusted, so that I can post out to her while she is here.
Here's the first necklace I made for her with some of the beads in her stash.
I held back a couple of pearls and made a pair of earrings with silver ear wires that are sleek and sophisticated, raising the game, as it were. I love the tassels on the ends of the lariat, they are so 'in' this year, and I spent an evening making them up with seed beads and a couple of floral bead caps - so much fun! I sent her some pictures and she loved the necklace - boy, did I hold my breath until I heard back from her! However, she wasn't too keen on the earrings as she prefers studs, so I will have to see what else I can come up with instead. As she won't be here for another 10 days, I do have a bit of time, and I still have to make the choker for her.
I sent four 0f my showiest necklaces off to The London Jewellery School in Hatton Gardens. They have now been placed in the top shelf of a display cabinet in their foyer, ready for me to be showcased as Jewellery Student of the Month for June. Their manager, Harriet Brooks, was kind enough to send me a photograph of the display.
That's all I have had time for this week folks, have a fabulous week and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello folks, I hope you're all having a lovely day - we certainly are, out here in the UK - it has been bright and sunny these last couple of weeks and it seems almost a shame to come away indoors when it is such fabulous weather outdoors.
I grew up in India where, as children we were called indoors by our families when the sun was beating down on us - Mad Dogs and Englishmen, and all that. Now, I've joined the ranks of the mad dogs and am out there gardening at midday, drinking shandies to keep myself cool and hydrated. Of course, it helps that the sun isn't half as vicious as it is in India and of course we get so little of it, it seems terrible to let it go to waste.
This has meant of course, that a lot of gardening was done this week with very little time for anything else.
I had an email from The London School of Jewellery naming me as their Student of the Month for June - they want me to send in a few pieces of jewellery for a locked display cabinet, and have sent me interview questions for their blog and Instagram account - I'm quite thrilled to be picked!
I sold a piece of jewellery through my shop on Etsy and the lady who lives in London, took the time and trouble to write me a handwritten note with a photograph of how she planned to style it - isn't that amazing?
No one seems to write thank you notes these days. I always include a handwritten note with my parcels of course, but no one actually puts pen to paper and a postage stamp on a card that they themselves have made. Amazing!
I was so thrilled to receive it, it was like I'd received the Nobel prize for Jewellery!
Jolene was named for the beautiful emerald green chromium diopside nugget beads in the necklace that remind me of the song by Dolly Parton, sung in this clip by her goddaughter Miley Cyrus.
"Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene"
The beads come from Russia where they are marketed as the alternative to emeralds, however, they are more of a olive colour and are part translucent and part transparent. This green gemstone is also thought to be able to improve intellect and encourages the desire of one to learn. According to metaphysical beliefs, chromium diopside is used to help alleviate aggression or stubbornness while in turn enhancing love and commitment.
I find these colours extremely attractive when put together, and was inspired to make this piece late one summer evening when I looked up at the indigo colored sky and saw the leaves from our Gleditsia tree (which are the exact same green) silhouetted against the blue in the garden lighting. The combination seemed too beautiful to forget and I felt that I simply had to immortalise it in a necklace. The pendant comes from Indonesia and the clasp is set with lapis lazuli and comes from my Jaipur trip, as do the faceted lapis in the body of the necklace.
That's as much as I've had time for this week folks, have a wonderful week and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello, my lovely internet friends, thanks for coming back to join me today. I've only just managed to shake off a cold and am over the worst of the jet lag - I feel like it gets worse as I get older.
While I was in India I met a young lady who came to take a look at my jewellery and ended up buying a couple of pieces. We had made contact via the website earlier on and she wanted me to wrap a piece of turquoise she owned in copper wire. When Ms A came to the house she brought with her a little bag of bits and bobs which she wanted to have made up, among which were a pair of silver earrings, one of which had a broken catch, a few turquoise beads bought on a visit to Bhutan, lapis lazuli beads and a few pearls which came from one of the earrings. She'd made a start at stringing the beads with one of the earrings as a pendant, but had given up mid way, either bored, too busy, or unsure of the direction it was taking.
Ms A is an educator by profession, feisty, sensible, well spoken with a left wing attitude which chimed with mine, and I felt that although I had only just met her, we achieved an instant rapport.
I love bags that contain treasure - well, who doesn't? The possibilities are endless especially if one is given a free hand and I could see hours of fun in that little bag, a cornucopia of fun.
With the two earrings being virtually identical, I wanted to make necklaces that were as different from one another as possible. There was also an anxiety that the remaining catches on the earrings might break so I drilled holes into the tops of the earrings, cut off the remaining catches and filed down the ends to make them comfortable to wear. I added garnets, labradorite and carnelian chips to the mix as there weren't quite enough beads, and knowing that the lady does not like her jewellery too bright or big, picked muted colours that are more her bag. Anyone who knows me will understand that this was a design challenge for me as I tend to design big, bold and bright!
I had a single turquoise bead left over when I finished the garnet necklace and I put it in the second necklace at first, in place of the large lapis bead that now rests above the earring/pendant.
Ms A said she wasn't keen to have turquoise in both the necklaces when I sent her a picture taken with my phone. After a bit of toing and froing, with me sending her pictures of all the suitable replacements, we decided to swap it with the lapis bead, so I remade that particular strand for her. After all, the customer is always right and should have what she wants, as far as possible! This has always been the Caprilicious credo and I do my best to keep it going.
And then, of course it was the turn of the pendant bead which was destined to be wrapped in miles of tarnish resistant copper wire. The bead itself is pretty tiny, just over a centimetre long so I had to come up with a design that exposed as much of it as possible. I also had to make sure that the holes were covered up so that it appeared more like a cabochon than a bead. Tarnish resistant wire is coated with nylon and has to be manipulated by hand rather than with pliers as the nylon tears if held too tightly and the wire looks unsightly. It is a bit more difficult to use, however, Ms A wanted it and as I said before whatever Ms A wants, Ms A gets (sung to the tune of Whatever Lola wants.....).
There they are, then, Ms A's bag of beads, transformed into wearable pieces. I hope she is happy with them when she receives them, and wish her hours of enjoyment in them.
I had to make these pieces up as soon as possible because one of my friends is travelling to India and has agreed to carry them back with her. I wouldn't be able to trust them to the vagaries of the Indian postal system. I certainly wouldn't want them stolen and for Mrs Indian Postman to be wearing them on her next outing to the cinema!
That's me for this week, folks. Have a wonderful week, and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello good people, I'm a bit late posting as I've been busy in Bangalore with my mothers birthday party and a short trip to Pune to visit my sister and her family. I also visited friends and relatives who waited till the last week to stuff me full of food, making it impossible to fly back to the UK in the same clothes I went to India in. Fortunately, I know that this happens, and always carry at least one outfit that is a size larger than my usual, so that I didn't have to fly back looking and feeling like a stuffed pillow. Now that I'm home, I've developed a stinking cold, but have had to go to work - after such a long leave of absence, it would be unfair to my colleagues and patients to extend my time away. Anyway, enough with the excuses!!
So in the end, my mother had not one but two celebrations. After all the fuss and make believe embarrassment, she 'allowed' us to throw her a birthday party and invited a hundred people to lunch the previous day herself!! A prayer was said at a temple of her choice after which we all trooped back home to lunch where a marquee had been set up, caterers brought in food and she seemed to enjoy herself thoroughly.
Every surface that could possibly be festooned with marigold garlands was decorated, including a couple of tree trunks. Mum inspected the food and agreed that it looked palatable before she let her guests loose on it. In a complete departure from the norm, she served beer and biriyani as well as the regular vegetarian fare that is usual after a visit to the temple - at 90 she is pretty untraditional!
I had cousins come all the way from Canada and from far flung places in India, and all in all it was a fun party. As soon as the last guest left, we went into 'we must rest, we must rest up or we will be exhausted tomorrow' mode. A masseuse was brought in to give all the ladies a good rub down, to prepare us for the next day and we chilled out so that we could be sure to have fun at the party the next evening.
My sister in law and I were throwing the party for mum the next day - we wanted so much to have it by the poolside, but it rained ferociously at about 6pm. We were anxious that a repeat performance would destroy all our plans, and moved the party indoors. We decorated the room with banners and bunting, and then it was time to have some serious fun. Sonali, a very talented artist had painted a portrait of mum from some photographs I had sent her, and we set that up on an easel at the entrance to the room. We had a saxophonist play soft music for us and with the cocktail bar open, we were ready to rock.
Two of the ladies even wore Caprilicious!!
Mum was pleased with her party and said she enjoyed the speeches. After this, we had the masseuse come in again - her pay packet was stupendous, but I'll bet her arms ached that week. The rest of the holiday was an anti climax, and all I wanted to do was rest, although I did fly out to Pune for a couple of days to visit with my sister and her family, and got invited out to dinner most nights, so much so I put on a load of weight eating out every day.
On the 18th of April, the whole of India celebrated a festival where all the women buy a piece of jewellery to ensure prosperity throughout the year - I'm sure this festival was invented by jewellers and though I'm a heathen non believer, I thought it was a good enough excuse to go out and buy myself a couple of pieces of siver jewellery from my favourite jeweller on Commercial Street in Bangalore. After all, when in Rome, etc. etc.
It took me a couple of weeks before I could post here, and I truly missed my routine. However, I could see that I was quickly becoming a nuisance, asking to borrow the office laptop at night and having to wake up early to return it before anyone needed it.
I'm back home now, over the jet lag and back at the day job, so will be posting more regularly.
Have a lovely week, and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello folks, how are you? I've been sweltering in temperatures around 28 - 34 degrees C - if I had any need of a fried egg, I could cook it on the pavement. However, it is lovely to be with my family and I am getting ready for mums birthday celebrations this weekend.
My sister and her family will come down from Pune where they live, cousins will arrive from Canada and Chennai and we will have around fifty people from just the extended family at the party. Between us, we have also managed to invite over eighty friends and the numbers at this party, which once looked as if it wouldn't go ahead have gone well past a hundred. We've chosen the poolside of Le Meridien, as we've had a party there in the past and they did us proud. My sister in law has worked hard to set it all up and I have been tying up all the loose ends over the last few days.
This was the last necklace I made before I left home, I bought the tasseled caftan pendant at the same time as my two silver Sufis, and it would have been churlish to leave it behind in the box. Besides, it is very pretty and I couldn't resist it.
It has been a relaxing couple of days while I've been waiting for all the excitement to start. I have a little room that looks out onto a balcony surrounded by fruit trees and this afternoon I was held prisoner there for over two hours.
Apparently the thing to do would have been to phone someone downstairs, and they would have let the dogs loose. The dogs would have gone ballistic at the sight of the intruders and the unholy row unleashed would have got the monkeys running for their life. I was content to peek out at them at short intervals and they eventually got bored looking at fruit they couldn't eat and left of their own accord. I wonder what they did in India when there weren't any mobile phones, I can't remember, it's been so long. Smoke signals??
India is mobile phone crazy and everyone and his dog has one, and they are on them, thumbs twitching away 24/7
That's me for today folks, have a fabulous week and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place,
Hiya good people on the internet, nice to catch you again today. As you read this, I am girding my loins (what an old fashioned expression; to gird one's loins!! Not sure I even know what it means) to start packing my bags to fly to India tomorrow. I would have normally been flying out today, but it is Friday the 13th and I didn't want to travel - stupid, I know, but there it is!
Paraskevidekatriaphobia, or a phobia of Friday the 13th comes from the Greek words Paraskeví, meaning Friday, and dekatreís meaning thirteen. It probably originates from the story of Jesus' last supper and crucifixion, in which there were 13 individuals present in the Room on Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.
A study in the British Medical Journal, in 1993 concluded that there "is a significant level of traffic-related incidents on Friday the 13th as opposed to a random day, in the UK." However, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (2008) stated that "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur on a Friday the 13th because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home".
So the day is almost upon us, when my mother turns 90, fortunately able in body and entirely compos mentis. My sister in law and I have been working to set up a credible party and give her a good day, and the WhatsApp lines have been smoking hot with phone calls, invitations and messages! We will have a weekend of celebration, and horror of horrors, I am to make a speech - not sure how that happened, but it seemed like a good idea at the time when I first agreed to do it. We have a week to fine tune the party plan, and then it all happens.
I made this necklace with three strings of titanium coated druzy agate beads. I bought them for a completely different project and then changed my mind and left them lying in the drawer until inspiration struck this week. Tibetan brass beads inlaid with coral and turquoise chips and a golden sunstone clasp complement the beads in this very pretty necklace and it has already been snapped up.
The palette of indigo, purple, emerald and magenta gives the impression of an oil slick, indeed this is well known in hairdressing terms where people colour their hair in blended streaks of these colours to produce this very effect.
The Silver Sufi
Last week I mentioned a Sufi necklace I made to order with lapis nuggets and coral. I had to send away to Istanbul for the pendant and while I was doing this, I noticed another fretwork Sufi on their website, and I simply had to have him.
Whirling is a form of Sama or meditation involving physical activity, which originated among Sufis and is still practiced by Dervishes or Semazen. It is a customary meditation practice performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which Semazen aim to reach the source of all perfection through abandoning one's egos and personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one's body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun.
The billowing skirts of my Sufi are beautiful in fretwork, and I teamed him with titanium coated black quartz nuggets and coral as an accent and added a brass Turkomen bead as an extra point of interest. A lovely vintage Kuchi coin dangles from the back of the clasp. Plenty to look at, then!
I haven't the time to organise a show in Bangalore this year, but if any of you reading this are interested, I will be carrying some of my jewellery and you are welcome to message me via the Caprilicious Facebook page and arrange to come and look at it, I'll be only too happy to see you.
That's me for this week folks, I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hello folks, thanks for coming back to Caprilicious for a look-see at the going ons here. I've had to go back to the day job and give it my all, knowing that a couple of weeks down the line, I will be on a plane back to India - so basically, I'm working between holidays! The week has been a bit boring in comparison to last week, but one can't be on holiday all the time,
I thought I'd make a couple of necklaces to take back to India with me. I've decided not to have a show this year as I am going to India in some of the hottest weeks of the year to celebrate my mothers ninetieth birthday. I don't think I'd have the time to do justice to a show, with all the preparation and work that a birthday party of that magnitude entails (some would call it laziness) in the enervating heat, but people who regularly pick up pieces from Caprilicious have been invited to come and take a look at a few pieces that I will carry with me. The necklaces I have on show below have no names as yet, but I thought I'd post the pictures anyway. For some reason the theme of the week was blue and only blue coloured beads seemed to come out of my stash - this was completely unplanned.
I've realised that the design ethic of Caprilicious is all about colour, texture and asymmetry, with more and more added until no more can go on. I love simple minimalistic jewellery, truly I do, but have to concede that I am unable to make or wear it, it is simply not my thing. Last week in Milan, I looked at the Dolce and Gabbana concession in La RInascente and it looked so colourful that I stopped and took a picture of it. However, I've now decided that I don't like the decor at all - it looks like the colour fairy vomited all over the shop, the designers didn't seem to know where and when to stop. I shall keep this picture in my mind at all times and this will prevent me from overdoing it and turning my jewellery into a migraine inducing riot of colourful madness.
I posted a picture of a Sufi necklace I made a couple of years ago on Instagram and a lady fell in love with it and ordered one for herself. I made it up for her as soon as the elements arrived - do forgive the pictures, they were taken with my phone on the arm of the chair I was sitting in while making the necklace. I didn't have time to get decent pictures as the necklace was packed and posted out the next morning and it was raining too hard to go out to the conservatory with the camera.
And last but not least, over the Easter weekend I spent some time sanding the pieces I made at Polymania - they have yet to be finished, especially the ones I learned from Kathleen Dustin. I have yet to decide how they will be hung and don't want to make such decisions in a hurry, so they will have to wait till I get back from India. My roommate Sherril gave me some pieces of veneer from a batch that she made, and rather than use the whole lot in one piece, I cut it up, added some pieces of colourful clay on either side and got myself six little ring trays, which also needed sanding and polishing.
That's me for this week, folks. I have loads of stuff to do this weekend - hubby is going to have the house painted while I am away, so I have to go out and choose the paint, a few bits of shopping have to be picked up - my mother is partial to ginger nut biscuits and chocolate, and I have yet to find a gift for my sister, who has moved into a brand new apartment. I also have to pack away the little knick knacks I have in my living room - unless I want hubs to just throw them into a cardboard carton willy nilly and leave it to fate whether they come out intact once the painter moves out of the room.
Have a fabulous week and I'll catch you next Friday, same time, same place.
Hey folks, thanks for stopping by, nice to catch up with you again. This is a bit late as we just got back from a few days in Milan last night. Fed up of the weather and cold in the UK, we took a short four day break - all we wanted was a quick direct flight, guaranteed warmth and a few touristy things to do, nothing strenuous. A nice hotel, decent food and something to get dressed up for - we put all these wishes into a box, shook it hard and picked out........drumroll.....Milan!
The touristy bits were easy - as Milan is mainly industrial, there isn't too much that we wanted to see, just the Duomo, and the mural of The Last Supper painted on the wall of a convent and we were done! We did add an exhibition of the works of Frida Kahlo to our must see items and strolled around the posh designer shops in the centre of Milan as if they were museums - they might as well have been, at those prices!
The Duomo has no dome and is dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity, took six centuries to finish and has spires ( Spiro??) and pointy bits galore. It is the largest church in Italy and the third largest in the world. Statues of saints abound - around 3500 of them ( I didn't know that there were that many saintly people who walked the earth!), and the doors are carved beautifully with the Stations of the Cross. People walked up to the doors and touched the figures of Christ and Mary, and where they were constantly rubbed one could see that the doors were made of bronze that was tarnished a dark green/ black. Much of the cathedral was being cleaned and refurbished, and I'm sure when they get around to the doors, they will be dazzlingly beautiful. It's a pity that they have been allowed to tarnish so badly in the first place. There are over 130 spires, and a nail allegedly from the Cross hangs at the apex of the vaulted roof. People mill around the square, taking selfies and the bars and restaurants serve up expensive food and drink, that cost a fraction of the price elsewhere, away from the Centro Storico.
Just across the square was another Temple - this time to conspicuous consumption - The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It has a barrel domed glass roof, a beautiful mosaic floor, paintings and frescoes abound and the air smells expensive with loads of posh shops in it. Everything in the shops at first glance seemed to be made for anorexic, rich waifs. Mike showed me a dress and said how beautiful it was - well, even one of my legs wouldn't get into the whole dress. 'Just as well', I muttered to myself, clicking away. The shops were full of Japanese tourists buying handbags and headscarved middle eastern women, laden with bags buying the same designer goods that are probably available in the shops where they come from. Our hotel, which was a block away from the Duomo was full of Japanese and Middle Eastern tourists and the floor of the foyer was littered with shopping bags and weary women every evening. Mike and I were each in an ethnic minority of our own at breakfast - I am used to it, but he found the experience strange in Europe!
I took photographs in La RInascente - a department store just off the Galleria - everything was very very expensive, and once again geared up for the anorexics who walked past the fabulous food and chocolate shops without a second glance, making straight for the clothes. 'Just as well', I thought to myself again, clicking away without a pang of heartache for all the things I didn't buy!
Culture Vultures in Milano
The best part of our holiday was a visit to La Scala - the only tickets we could get at that late date were in the third row and a heart clutching 180 Euros each. I went against Mikes wishes and booked them online the day before we flew out, and I'm so glad I did. They had a modern ballet set to music on that week - I don't know Mahler at all, but the pieces by Mozart and Ravel were familiar. The ballet itself was spectacular, especially the piece choreographed to Ravel's Bolero - I was literally in tears by the end of it, I was so moved, bearing in mind I am not a person who cries at the drop of a hat - that twenty to thirty minute piece was worth the price of the tickets. The theatre itself is very beautiful inside, although it has a disappointingly nondescript exterior. The chairs are padded and comfortable, which is important if one has to sit still for hours at a time.
Frida Kahlo at MUDEC
I found out that there was an exhibition of curated works by Frida Kahlo at the Museum of Culture, MUDEC, so we schlepped across town to see it. The amount of pain this prodigious artist was in all through her life was difficult to bear, as it was all around us in her pictures and portraits. We were in awe of her accomplishments, lying flat on her back bound up in a corset, with a cigarette in one hand and paintbrush in the other, making meaningful art on a canvas suspended over her on a contraption of pulleys. Every brushstroke had a meaning ascribed to it and told a story - it wasn't just a pretty picture but almost a blogpost or diary painted in pictures, each one telling the story of what was happening in her life at the time and how she felt about it.
And then, on to the convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie to see Leonardo Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' - painted on the refectory wall. It was commissioned by Luciano Sforza, the Duke of Milan - because the painting was on a thin exterior wall, the effects of humidity were felt more keenly, and the tempera failed to properly adhere to the wall. It was covered over with a curtain, but that trapped humidity further and the painting has been restored several times, the last one taking 21 years, using modern paint and completed in 1999. Twenty people are allowed in at a time for fifteen minutes, and I bought tickets online to beat the queues. The painting depicts the consternation of the twelve disciples when Jesus tells them that he is about to be betrayed by one of them - it has a lot of significance on Maundy Thursday, which coincidentally was the day we ended up going to see it.
Jesus is the central figure and all the apostles, painted in groups of three, look shocked and disturbed. Judas has been painted with his head lower than everyone else, third to the right of Jesus, clutching a bag of silver. Some really crazy person decided to knock a door into the refectory wall, just under Jesus, thus effectively amputating his feet - the door is now blocked off. On the opposite wall is painted a depiction of the crucifixion by Da Montorfano, added to later on by Da Vinci.
As we had got to the convent too early, we spent some time wandering around Leonardo's vineyard across the road and drinking fabulous Italian coffee in a cafe'.
Spring is definitely in the air in Italy and as we sat in the bars on Viale Magenta I saw a number of young people wearing wreaths of laurel leaves on their heads. I wondered whether there was a connection to the Easter holiday.
I walked up to one of the girls and asked her the significance of the wreaths - they were all celebrating graduation day - she had graduated with a degree in business studies and the new graduates wore a wreath of leaves to the ceremony.
The girls had flowers woven into them, and the boys just had leaves and red berries. The world belongs to them and I wished her well!